PROVO — In Utah's baseball world, you could carve their faces out of one of the surrounding mountains for all to see and feel safe. They are men for all seasons and have done more than their share.
So it was only fitting BYU honored former Cougar coaches Glen Tuckett and Gary Pullins Saturday by retiring their jerseys before a home game against San Francisco.
Together, the two coached BYU baseball to 1,358 wins, 28 divisional titles and 10 conference championships over a period of 41 years. They’ve both been inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Their former players have dotted major league rosters for several decades.
They are both philosophers. You’d want Tuckett to speak at your funeral and Pullins to entertain at your backyard party.
Tuckett could go on a Dale Carnegie speaker’s circuit; Pullins, with his spontaneous singing, could draw a crowd anywhere.
But their best collective skill is the building of young men. Guys like Dane Iorg, Jack Morris, Wally Joyner and Cory Snyder are among their pupils.
Both are kind men, gentlemen from an era when it was popular to be respectful to all people, both big and small. They remember names; they quote the legends; and their love of baseball emits an actual heightened temperature you can feel when they speak of the game.
Jeff Bills grew up in Sequim, Wash., and is now president and CEO of Confidence Consulting. Bills had the unique experience of playing for Tuckett, and his sons have played for Pullins.
He is qualified to describe both men.
Bills says Tuckett’s baseball career speaks for itself, but it is his integrity that really stands out. “He will not compromise the values that define what is good and noble. No player was better than the rules and there were no gray areas when it came to right and wrong.”
Tuckett always respected relationships, none more than his wife Josephine, and if you were in his baseball family, he’d do whatever was in his power to protect, promote and empower your success, says Bills.
Over his lifetime, Tuckett has perfected the power of a simple act few even think of. It’s called the "personal note." He turns it into a brick of gold.
“He is always deflecting praise to others,” said Bills. “He writes personal notes to everyone he reads or hears about who has done something good. I am amazed at how many people have received a personal note from Glen. He recognizes others for good work. In Glen’s eyes, there is always room for more heroes.”
Tuckett is known for never being late, and he pounded that principle into his players. When his guys came out of the dugout, it was time to hustle. “You ran everywhere. Walking anywhere on the baseball field was unacceptable.”
Bills praises Tuckett for being a master teacher, a key to everything he did. He could take a concept and present it almost always with a sense of values or morals.
“When I was a freshman, my father died of lymphoma. Glen knew exactly the right way to quietly step into my life to offer support and encouragement,” said Bills.
Tuckett held a special place for people who belonged in his “inner sanctum.” If someone needed his help, he was there. “He keeps track of his former players and stays in touch with them. He cares about them in the most meaningful way. I have seen Glen fly across the country to attend the funeral of one of his former players.”
Bills has always admired Tuckett’s dedication to his wife Jo and his daughters and grandchildren.
Pullins, said Bills, is one of the brightest minds in baseball and knows the nuances of the game, names, faces, facts and figures as well as anyone around. “He is also a man of character and distinction,” said Bills.
When Pullins stepped in as Tuckett left the BYU baseball program, he had a daunting task in terms of leadership, recruiting and keeping the program moving forward. Pullins kept the success going, but he never missed an opportunity to honor or praise Tuckett and recognize him for the groundwork he did.
Pullins is known to often get up in front of people and just start singing his message or a tune. That takes some great confidence, and he’d do it unabashed or ashamed — and it wasn’t meant as a joke.
Said Bills, “Gary is one of the most self-deprecating men I know. He played for Tommy Lasorda and the Ogden Dodgers. The team was loaded with big leaguers: (Steve) Garvey, (Bobby) Valentine and (Rick) Monday. Gary likes to say that he was the only starter on the team that did not end up in the big leagues. And he says it with great pride and respect for the men who did.”
Pullins was named the WAC Coach of the Year nine times, and his 1981 team was ranked No. 1 in the country at one point that season. Like Tuckett, he has served on numerous national committees, including as president of the American Baseball Coaches Association, the Rules Committee and the All-American Selection Committee.
Pullins’ wife Kathy is a law professor at BYU and Bills says the Pullins' four sons are “four of the finest men I know.”
Both men coached a program in a place that is challenged by the climate. It isn’t easy to recruit baseball or golfers to Utah, where athletes cannot ply their craft year round on-site. Utah's springs are often cold, windy and rainy, elements that can be seen as negatives to potential recruits.Comment on this story
But Pullins and Tuckett produced champions and winners and succeeded anyway.
As they stood in Larry Miller Park before BYU’s Saturday game with San Francisco, it was obvious that the legacy these two men have left loomed large. Both men had a huge impact on why the park exists — but both would be the first to deny it.
Retiring their jerseys is the least the school could do.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.